Archive | September, 2009


14 Sep



On Saturday afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure — believe me — of sitting a row behind three hot hot young blondes (two were twins) in the jam-packed Elgin Theatre for the premiere of a hotly-anticipated documentary. What made the screening even more memorable was the fact that the subject of that documentary was their date for the evening; was sitting beside them; and was Hugh Hefner.

The film, “Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel,” was directed by Brigitte Berman, a veteran German filmmaker who first met Hefner, a jazz fan, after winning the best documentary Oscar for her film “Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got” (1985). They grew closer after Hefner, upon learning that Berman had another documentary in the can about 1920′s jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke but was unable to secure clearance for his music, interceded on her behalf so that it could be released. At his 80th birthday party a little over three years ago, she convinced him to allow her to tell his own story, with unprecedented total access to his family, friends, and materials, as well as complete creative freedom. Forget the E! television show “The Girls Next Door” — that, like the now-defunct Paris Hilton “reality” show “The Simple Life,” is about showing us not who its subject is but rather who we want them to be. This seems to show much more of the real-deal.

In the film, Hefner talks candidly about the unique journey that has been his life and career — which, as noted by his daughter, among others, has really been one in the same and resulted in one of the greatest media empires of all-time, if not the happiest of homes. Despite the man’s faults and oddities, you can’t help but walk away from this film with respect and admiration for his creativity, passion, and drive, not to mention a clear understanding of his central belief: people should be free to do whatever they please as long as they are not hurting themselves or others. Moreover, he’s so charming, articulate, and — in his old age — sympathetic that it’s hard to disagree. (After all, in the age of the Internet, when any kind of sexual deviance can be found for free with a simple click of a mouse, it’s hard not to look at Hefner and the once-controversial “Playboy” and feel the way I do about Monica Lewinsky: if only that was still our biggest problem!)

Though Berman employs the eye-catching approach of animating the autobiographical comics that Hefner has drawn throughout his life and interspersing them throughout the film, its most compelling moments are actually the talking-head interviews with those who know him. The cast of characters who pop up is eclectic, to say the least. You’ve got the football star Jim Brown to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who came to know and love Hefner for his early and important work to improve race relations. You’ve got actor James Caan gushing about the Playboy Mansion as a modern-day Shangri-La. You’ve got comedian Bill Maher (also a Mansion regular) celebrating Hefner’s defense of the First Amendment. You’ve got past “Playboy” Playmates like Jenny McCarthy reflecting on their awe of him. You’ve got people who once hated him and now love him, like reporter Mike Wallace; people who once hated him and still do, like aging feminist Susan Brownmiller, who once debated him years ago; and people who have been on both sides of the matter, like singer Joan Baez. It’s hard to say if the most insightful, thought-provoking, and outright funniest lines come from talk show host Dick Cavett or Kiss rock star Gene Simmons — and that, in itself, says it all.

The film’s original cut, according to Berman, ran an untenable 7 hours. The TIFF print came in at 135-minutes, which was still too long. But, considering that it chronicles a life that has spanned 83 years and a career that’s covered 56 of them, I suppose it’s not very long at all.

Photo: Hugh Hefner and “Hefner” director Brigitte Berman on the grounds of the Playboy mansion. Credit: TIFF.


14 Sep



It seems that every year that I come to the Toronto International Film Festival, I walk away having seen at least one charming, moving, revelatory film. In 2007, it was “Juno.” In 2008, it was “Slumdog Millionaire.” And, about two-thirds of the way into my visit this year, it seems hard to imagine that it won’t be “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9).

Yes, I know it’s not breaking any news to say nice things about Lone Scherfig‘s film — and particularly the performance given by its leading lady, 24-year-old Carey Mulligan — since they’ve both been acquiring fans at various festivals since January (Sundance, Berlin, Sydney, Brisbane, and now here). But as the film — and the lady — arrived in North America, I was anxious to see for myself not only if the hype about the work was true (it is, although it would be nice if the third-act wasn’t quite as long and predictable), but also if the young woman from England was as impressive off-screen as on, since the nature of the awards season is that the person needs to be sold as much as the product. Moreover, previous-unknowns in their first starring role only sporadically garner best actress Oscar nominations, but wins? That’s incredibly rare — in fact, the only example that comes to mind is Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” (1953).

Well, folks, we may have a new Audrey Hepburn on our hands. Mulligan is — precisely as Audrey was — 24-years-young, British, and beautiful in a gamine way that allows her to appear both childlike and ladylike and thereby come of age before the audience’s eyes. Guys will want her; girls will want to be her; and Oscar voters will be smitten. Frankly, I’d like to kick the crap out of Shia LaBeouf, her rumored boyfriend/co-star in the upcoming sequel to “Wall Street,” just for having the nerve to date her.

Of course, it’s not only her show. Dominic Cooper is very good in a supporting part and continues his march towards being a leading man. And those in very small roles, like sexy Olivia Williams as a schoolteacher and dependable Emma Thompson as a headmaster, are equally effective. And the co-lead, Peter Sarsgaard, is just so good at plazing charming, lizardy, weasely cads that we sometimes forget to notice.

In 1999, Sarsgaard starred opposite Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry” en route to her first Oscar; a decade later, it appears that he has done the same with Carey Mulligan.

Photo: Carey Mulligan in “An Education.” Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics.


14 Sep



A movie about the War on Terror starring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey — namely Grant Heslov‘s “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (Overture, 11/6) — certainly sounded like a likely awards contender heading into Toronto. Sure, it’s a comedy, but so was “Tropic Thunder” and that got an acting nomination, right?

Well, what I learned on Friday night at the gala screening of the film and elaborate after-party thrown in its honor was that yes, it is a very funny movie, but no, it won’t be an awards season player… and Overture, the burgeoning studio behind it, is perfectly content with that — frankly, they’d just like to see it make some money! For a number of reasons, it will be interesting to see if it actually does… even though it is a comedy and features some major stars, it’s also about the war in Iraq (try to name three movies on that subject that have made big money) and lacks no marketable romantic angle because there are virtually no women in it (there aren’t many of that kind that do boffo box-office either)!

Essentially, the film is composed of absurd but funny set of stories about a hush-hushed military unit of “psychic spies” who are working to find alternative ways to wage wars. Advertised at the beginning of the film as being “truer than you may think,” these scenarios are experienced and connected together by a narrator, a rather thankless straight-man role played by McGregor. Clooney, like Cary Grant used to, always plays a variation of his usual cocky-but-charismatic screen persona, and his part in this film — the grizzled mentor on a mission — is no exception. Bridges, meanwhile, basically tries back on “The Dude” in order to play the hippie who came up with the idea of the program. And Spacey does what Spacey does best (but could probably afford to do a little less often): he plays a smug a-hole.

The actors are all good; the writing is, at least in spurts, great… well, certainly hilarious. Having not yet read Jon Ronson‘s book that served as the source material for Peter Straughan‘s script, it’s hard to know who deserves the credit for this. But nothing beats a line like Spacey’s when he approaches a groom at his the wedding party, pats him on the shoulder, and says: “Congratulations, Scotty! I’m sorry it doesn’t work out between you two.” Or, for that matter, the following exchange: “What’s the most common French expression?” “I give up.” The audience at Roy Thomson — judging from their loud laughter during and generous applause following the film — certainly ate it up.

Photo: George Clooney has a ridiculous hair style throughout much of “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” Credit: Virgin Media.


14 Sep



On Friday afternoon, I spent about a half-hour interviewing one of the only three women who have ever been nominated for a best director Oscar, Jane Campion. Campion, who is still most closely-associated with the film that garnered that nod, “The Piano” (1993), is presently in Toronto promoting her latest film, “Bright Star,” which is the first she has written and/or directed since “In the Cut” (2003) was eviscerated by critics six years ago.

As you can hear in greater detail by tuning in, Campion tells me about how she discovered her passion for filmmaking, how she lost it and considered quitting the business after “In the Cut,” and how she found it again after learning about a 190-year-old love affair while force-feeding herself poetry during her hiatus. Moreover, she reflects on why most of her finest films — this one among them — celebrate the same core story: a woman who lives outside of society’s mainstream and refuses to conform.

Like “The Piano,” this one is also set in the 19th century, chronicles a stormy affair, and features absolutely incredible dresses, bows, bonnets, and the like. Unlike “The Piano,” however, it stars actors who are not widely-known and revolves around characters who are. It’s focus is the last three years in the life of the celebrated poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), which were some of his most artistically fruitful and personally gratifying, in large part due to his relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).

It will be interesting to see if the folks at TIFF — and the Academy — embrace “Bright Star” as much as the folks at Cannes did back in May. My own opinion is that its greatest achievements are aesthetic — it’s a damn good-looking production and will surely earn a best costume Oscar nod, if not others, as well. I’m not sure, though, that the love story that serves as its subject merits a two-hour runtime, particularly when the actors who portray the lovers don’t radiate a ton of chemistry with each other and give largely monotonous performances overall. (In fairness, Cornish does have some very strong moments at various intervals, several of which I discuss with Campion.)

Like poetry for Campion before her hiatus, this film felt like something I probably “should” have appreciated more but just didn’t. That may be a shortcoming of the poem… or the reader.

Photo: Jane Campion, left, at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival with “Bright Star” leads Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw. Credit: Francois Guillot (AFP/Getty).


13 Sep

Check out this twenty-minute chat that I had on Friday with the actor Paul Bettany, who starred as Charles Darwin — opposite his wife, Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly, as Mrs. Darwin — in this year’s opening night film “Creation.” We discuss the roots of his personal fascination with the great thinker; the remarkable physical transformation that he made for the part; the challenges/rewards of working with a person you’re in a relationship with; and how he weighs Darwin against religion in his own life.

In my opinion, Bettany is one of our most under-appreciated talents, having done standout work in everything from studio fare like “A Beautiful Mind” (2001), “Wimbledon” (2004), and “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) to stuff far outside the mainstream like “Dogville” (2003), which I particularly adore. As you may recall from my initial post about “Creation,” I think it’s a flawed film that would strongly benefit from some additional trimming, but Bettany’s totally-committed performance makes it well worth a look anyway.


12 Sep



“A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2), the latest work of Ethan and Joel Coen and the highest-profile awards hopeful to be making its debut here at TIFF, screened for the first time this morning. Only a year after they came here with the disappointing “Burn After Reading” — which was fun enough but not nearly as deep or layered as most of the rest of their oeuvre — the brothers’ latest offering marks a decisive return to form. It is absolutely hilarious — an extraordinary satire of the Jewish-American experience — but nevertheless strikes me as unlikely awards bait.

Prior to the screening, the press had heard very little about the plot — only that it was inspired, to some degree, by the Coens’ own experience of growing up in a Jewish family in Minnesota during the late sixties and early seventies. As it turns out, the film focuses less on the Gopnik family’s kids than on its patriarch (Michael Stuhlbarg), a reserved if not wimpy professor (think Marty McFly’s dad in “Back to the Future”) who is presented with moral dilemma at the very same time that his personal life begins crashing down around him, and who cannot find anyone to provide him with the guidance that he so desperately needs.

On a surface level, the circumstances that befall this man are utterly tragic; in the hands of the Coens, though, one can’t help but laugh. To name just a few: his wife informs him that she wants a divorce and him to move out of the house so that a family friend of 15 years (in possession of man-boobs and an unintentionally patronizing demeanor) can move in; his kids ignore him (except when they need cash or the TV antenna to be fixed); his live-in relative (Richard Kind) puts addition strain on the family (regularly hogging the bathroom to drain his cist); neighbor needles him (by driving his lawnmower onto his property); his superior scares him (notifying him that someone has been writing anonymous complaints about him, but insisting, unconvincingly, that it won’t impact the upcoming decision about whether or not to grant him tenure); his doctor hounds him (about discussing the results of recent medical tests); a student tests him (by offering a bribe of much-needed cash to change his grade); and on and on we go until he nears the breaking point.

This movie works so well for three very clear reasons…

Candor The Coens have perfectly captured the oddities and eccentricities of conservative Jewish life, and present them in a way that could have seemed offensive in others’ hands but seems lovingly in theirs. As someone who has also lived it, I instantly recognized and laughed along at the various stock characters — the wimp, the mensch, the goodie two-shows, the hypochondriac, the trite philosopher, the unsolicited counselor, the sparring siblings, the kid who curses because he thinks it makes him cool, the self-important members of a congregation, the rabbi who can only answer a question with another question. And I got a particular kick out of characters who fail to finish sentences: “The respect she has for you…”

Pacing The film’s humor is achieved less through the lines of dialogue than the manner in which they are delivered — often there is a question or statement, a skipped beat or two, and then a hilarious payoff. The sense of dread afflicting the protagonist is also conveyed magnificently, sometimes through silences but also through cacophonies of unusual noises (as demonstrated in the film’s trailer) that crescendo as he nears his breaking point. For brief spurts, it even feels more like a music video than a movie!

Casting It’s rare to see a film cast perfectly — Frank Capra, John Ford, and Preston Sturges did it years ago, but lately it’s a skill that’s been left to Jason Reitman, Paul Thomas Anderson, and the Coens, who in this film cast people who actually look like a young rabbi, old rabbi, burdensome live-in relative, and the like are supposed to look. Their greatest forte is — and, since the earliest days of Steve Buscemi, has been — finding the perfect face for the perfect part, which is precisely what Fred Melamed (who plays Sy Ableman), among others, is in this one.

My sole concern about this movie is that much of its humor may be lost on people who are not Jewish — particularly some of the customary rituals and Yiddish and Hebrew terms like “goy” and “Hashem.” But I think that even if they don’t “get” (to use another word that is employed unusually in the movie) every reference, they will still be able to enjoy the majority of the situations and possibly even relate to them.

Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Larry David will be proud — they’ve all tried to incorporate this sort of stuff into their work, but have never managed to do so as effectively or as humorously as the Coens now have.

Note: My initial analysis of the films awards prospects is that it will not be a realistic contender for best picture, best director, best actor, or best supporting actor, all categories in which we once thought it might. Instead, its backers would be advised to concentrate their efforts on nominations for best original screenplay at the Oscars and best picture (musical or comedy) at the Golden Globes.

Photo: Michael Stuhlbarg in “A Serious Man.” Credit: Focus Features.


11 Sep



The first day and night of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival featured everything from the disturbing (“Jennifer’s Body”) to the more disturbing (“Antichrist”), so perhaps it was with the intention of offering a change of pace that TIFF’s organizers decided to showcase the Charles Darwin biopic “Creation” as their opening night film. I was at Roy Thomson Hall for its screening, and I can’t help but feel that it was done a disservice by being screened late at night on a weekday — indeed, an hour later than its scheduled 8pm start-time due to a seemingly endless number of sponsor acknowledgements and unnecessary featurettes — because it is a rather slow-paced work that requires more patience and focus than many seemed able to give it tonight, judging by the number of illuminated Blackberry devices and nodding heads.

Creation was directed by Jon Amiel (“Entrapment”) and stars the real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Darwin. It’s a visually beautiful, well-acted, old-school bio-pic of the sort that studio chiefs prided themselves on turning out regularly in the thirties — think Paul Muni in “The Story of Louis Pasteur” (1935) or “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937), or even Don Ameche in “The Story of Alexander Graham Bell” (1939). In other words, it offers a basic recap of the professional and personal side of a “great man” who we all know about already. Like those films, “Creation” doesn’t get too into the nitty-gritty of its protagonist’s theories and accomplishments; rather, it might be called “Darwin for Dummies,” if only dummies cared enough to check it out. (Ay, there’s the rub: who is this movie actually intended for?)

Actually, the most apt comparison for this film is an ironic one: “Creation” could just as easily have been called “A Beautiful Mind” if that film hadn’t already been made with — yes, wait for it — Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. In that 2001 best picture Oscar winner, Russell Crowe was the genius; in this one, Bettany is. In that one, Bettany who played the person who haunts/can be seen only by the protagonist; in this one, he is the haunted. And, in that one, Connelly played the wife who stands by her man through thick and thin; in this one, she does so again. (This is all probably just a bizarre coincidence, but one I would be remiss not to note.)

So, having said all that, did I like “Creation”? For the most part — and unlike many who saw the film tonight — yes. It’s far too long, and too melodramatic at times, but it picks up steam as it goes along and vividly brings to life a person whose ideas are extremely relevant today but whom most of us know only as the name associated with them, not as the real and three-dimensional person Bettany brings to the screen.

The actor, who met his wife/co-star on the set of “A Beautiful Mind,” has been fascinating to watch over the eight years since. He played another naturalist in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003), and probably deserved an best supporting actor Oscar nod for his understated performance. He was outstanding in the criminally misunderstood Lars von Trier masterpiece “Dogville” (2003). And he was given a shot at being a leading man opposite Kirsten Dunst in the rom-com “Wimbledon” (2004), which was charming but a commercial disaster. Ever since, he’s popped up in small parts in films like “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and “The Secret Life of Bees” (2008) that somehow feel beneath him.

If one thing comes of “Creation,” I hope it will be better opportunities for Bettany. With this performance, he has proven that he has the chops to make virtually any character come believably to life. He may not be bringing home an Oscar nod this year, but if given the right role he will eventually.

Photo: Paul Bettany in “Creation.” Credit: HanWay Films.


10 Sep



In recent years, numerous awards contenders were either born or screened at the Toronto International Film Festival — “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Wrestler,” and the list goes on. So, too, were at least as many films that prognosticators believed would be awards contenders, but that failed to stand the test of Toronto critics and audiences — do the titles “The Brave One,” “Rendition,” “The Other Man,” “Appaloosa,” “The Brothers Bloom,” or “Blindness” ring a bell?

With the 2009 festival getting under way later today, I thought I’d share with you the 10 TIFF films that I believe have the biggest awards potential going forward. Needless to say, this list might look very different by the end of the festival!

[1] “Precious” (Lions Gate, 11/6)
This gritty Lee Daniels drama, which is being promoted here by exec-producers/culture-powerbrokers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, first made a splash back in January at Sundance, where it became only the third film to ever win both the Grand Jury prize and Audience award. Subsequent industry screenings have firmly established its atypical leading lady Gabourey Sidibe as a best actress threat and comedienne Mo’Nique — who is anything but funny here — as a potential best supporting actress winner.

[2] “Up in the Air” (Paramount, 12/4)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years covering TIFF, it’s to not bet against local boy done good Jason Reitman, the young director whose first two features (“Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno”) gathered massive wind behind their awards sails following screenings at Toronto’s Ryerson Theater, where this one will play on Saturday night. Like “Juno,” “Air” was sneak-peaked at Telluride en route to Toronto, and the early word is that its subject’s timeliness, Reitman’s adapted script, and a moving George Clooney perf position it at least as well for the months ahead.

[3] “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9)
The breakthrough story of the season seems to be 23-year-old Carey Mulligan, who previously popped up in bit parts over the years (one of the kid sisters in “Pride and Prejudice,” etc.) and now blossoms before viewers’ eyes into a main attraction in this coming-of-age story. With first-rate actors like Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and Emma Thompson in supporting roles, this has the potential to contend across the board.

[4] “Capitalism: A Love Story” (Overture, 9/23)
Prodigious muckraker Michael Moore is back in action, this time setting his sights on a subject nearly all Americans share his distaste for: greedy and corrupt Wall Street big-wigs. Moore wouldn’t be Moore without controversy, though, which is sure to result from the larger questions he raises about the capitalistic system. The film has been well-received at Venice, and Overture plans to back it for the long-haul. With ten slots for best picture nominees now, it just might become the first documentary ever nominated for the top prize.

[5] A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2)
This latest production from the brothers Coen is probably the most important film making its debut at Toronto — certainly the most anticipated — but we really know very little about it, other than that it was supposedly inspired by tough times in the life of the directors’ father. Is it a drama? A comedy? A dramedy? With a tantalizingly vague trailer and no one associated with the film talking, it could go the way of either of their last two TIFF films — “No Country for Old Men” stopped here after Cannes in 2007 en route to eight Oscar nods and four Oscars, including best picture; “Burn After Reading,” meanwhile, came here via Venice last year and wound up with not even a nomination.

[6] “The Road” (The Weinstein Company, 11/25)
The story is even bleaker than “No Country for Old Men”; the release date has changed more often than Mitt Romney; and Harvey Weinstein and Co. will presumably devote most of their energies towards pushing “Nine” before long. Nevertheless, those who have seen it say it packs an immense punch, thanks in large part to yet another solid performance by the most underrated man in Hollywood, Viggo Mortensen, and an impressive turn by his kid sidekick Kodi Smit-McPhee. The response at TIFF will likely determine for the studio whether or not the film merits more than a token campaign.

[7] “The Informant!” (Warner Brothers, 9/18)
There’s really no urgency to see this one at TIFF since it opens nationwide next week, but it’s hard to resist when you consider the talent involved: star Matt Damon, who is good in almost anything (okay, except “Stuck on You”); writer Scott Z. Burns, who previously co-wrote the Damon blockbuster “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007); and, of course, director Steven Soderbergh, who is returning to studio fare for the first time since the “Ocean’s” movies (in which Damon also starred) after several low-budget productions. The obvious question is not whether the film will be good; it’s whether such a commercial movie with such an early release date can still attract awards attention.

[8] “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (Overture, 11/6)
George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, and Ewan McGregor all star in this comedy set against a very serious backdrop. Grant Heslov, Clooney’s co-writer/producer of the Oscar-nominated “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005), is at the helm, and Overture, which fought tooth-and-nail to get a best actor nod for Richard Jenkins last year, is distributing — neither should be underestimated. They will, however, have to overcome the usual genre biases of the awards season, and that is a tall task for anyone.

[9] “Broken Embraces” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/11)
The last time bombshell Penelope Cruz teamed up with her mentor Pedro Almodovar, she walked away with a best actress nomination (“Volver”). Sony Pictures Classics would love nothing more than to retrace those steps, and the relatively thin field this year means the bar may not be as high as it has been in the past. The problem, though, is that the film’s buzz out of Cannes (where “Embraces” premiered back in May) was decidedly mixed. Cruz got her usual good notices, but both she and the film could certainly benefit from a wave of new champions here in Toronto.

[10] “Bright Star” (Apparation, 9/18)
This Jane Campion period piece focuses on  the star-crossed romance between 19th century poet John Keats (portrayed by Ben Whishaw from “Perfume”) and his lover Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish, heretofore best known for “Candy” and dating Ryan Phillippe). The film was very warmly received at Cannes, but numerous stateside journalists who have screened it since have independently expressed many of the same reservations — nobody can deny its visual beauty (Campion’s trademark dating back to “The Piano”) but many believe its story lacks the vivacity and its leads the chemistry to fully “work.” Having seen it myself, I believe Cornish acquits herself best of all with several standout moments, most notably one near the end.

Photo: Artwork for “Precious.” Courtesy: Lions Gate.


9 Sep


Projected Nominees
[1] “Invictus” (Warner Brothers, 12/11)
[2] Nine” (The Weinstein Company, 11/25, trailer)
[3] Precious (Lions Gate, 11/6, trailer)
[4] Up in the Air” (Paramount, 12/4, teaser)
[5] Amelia” (Fox Searchlight, 10/23, trailer)
[6] Avatar” (20th Century Fox, 12/18, teaser)
[7] An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9, trailer)
[8] The Lovely Bones” (Paramount, 12/11, trailer)
[9] The Hurt Locker” (Summit, 6/26, trailer)
[10] Capitalism: A Love Story” (Overture, 9/23, trailer)
Major Threats
[11] The Tree of Life” (Apparition, 12/25) NEW
[12] Up” (Disney, 5/29, trailer)
[13] A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2, trailer)
[14] The Road” (The Weinstein Company, 11/25, trailer)
[15] The Informant!” (Warner Brothers, 9/18, trailer)
On the Outside
[16] The Men Who Stare at Goats(Overture, 11/6, trailer) NEW
[17] Where the Wild Things Are” (Warner Brothers, 10/16, trailer)
[18] District 9(Sony, 8/14, trailer)
[19] Star Trek” (Paramount, 5/8, trailer)
[20] Bright Star” (Apparation, 9/18, trailer)
[21] Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company, 8/21, trailer) NEW
[22] Julie & Julia” (Columbia, 8/7, trailer)

Projected Nominees
[1] Clint Eastwood (Invictus”)
[2] Rob Marshall (Nine”)
[3] Lee Daniels (Precious”)
[4] Jason Reitman (Up in the Air”)
[5] Mira Nair (Amelia”)
Major Threats
[6] James Cameron (Avatar”)
[7] Lone Scherfig (An Education”)
[8] Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones”)
[9] Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker”)
[10] Michael Moore (Capitalism: A Love Story”)
On the Outside
[11] Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) NEW
[12] Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (Up”)
[13] Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (A Serious Man”)
[14] John Hillcoat (The Road”)
[15] Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!”)
[16] Grant Heslov (The Men Who Stare at Goats”) NEW
[17] Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are”)
[18] Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
[19] J.J. Abrams (Star Trek”)
[20] Jane Campion (Bright Star”)
[21] Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds”) NEW
[22] Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia”)

Projected Nominees
[1] Morgan Freeman (Invictus”)
[2] Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine”)
[3] George Clooney (Up in the Air”)
[4] Viggo Mortensen (The Road”)
[5] Sean Penn (The Tree of Life”) NEW
Major Threats
[6] Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker”)
[7] Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man”)
[8] Matt Damon (The Informant!”)
[9] Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back”) NEW
[10] Ethan Hawke (Brooklyn’s Finest”)
On the Outside
[11] Ewan McGregor (The Men Who Stare at Goats”) NEW
[12] Hugh Dancy (Adam”)
[13] Paul Bettany (Creation”)
[14] Michael Caine (Harry Brown”)
[15] Ben Winshaw (Bright Star”)
[16] Johnny Depp (Public Enemies”)

Projected Nominees
[1] Carey Mulligan (An Education”)
[2] Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia”)
[3] Gabourey Sidibe (Precious”)
[4] Hilary Swank (Amelia”)
[5] Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones”)
Major Threats
[6] Penelope Cruz (Broken Embraces”)
[7] Michelle Monaghan (Trucker”)
[8] Abbie Cornish (Bright Star”)
[9] Charlize Theron (The Burning Plain”)
[10] Michelle Pfeiffer (Cheri”)
[11] Audrey Tautou (Coco Before Chanel”)
On the Outside
[12] Tilda Swinton (Julia”)
[13] Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria”)
[14] Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer”)
[15] Ellen Page (Whip It”)
[16] Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Stoning of Soraya M.”)

Projected Nominees
[1] Matt Damon (Invictus”)
[2] Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones”)
[3] Richard Gere (Amelia”)
[4] Alfred Molina (An Education”)
[5] Richard Kind (A Serious Man”)
Major Threats
[6] Peter Sarsgaard (An Education”)
[7] Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds”)
[8] Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road”)
On the Outside
[9] Ewan McGregor (Amelia”)
[10] Jeff Bridges (The Men Who Stare at Goats”) NEW
[11] George Clooney (The Men Who Stare at Goats”) NEW
[12] Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker”)
[13] Paul Schneider (Bright Star”)

Projected Nominees
[1] Mo’Nique (Precious”)
[2] Penelope Cruz (Nine”)
[3] Marion Cotillard (Nine”)
[4] Judi Dench (Nine”)
[5] Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air”)
Major Threats
[6] Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air”)
[7] Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones”)
[8] Nicole Kidman (Nine”)
[9] Sigourney Weaver (Avatar”)
[10] Catherine Keener (Where the Wild Things Are”)
[11] Kathy Bates (Cheri”)
On the Outside
[12] Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds”) NEW
[13] Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies”)
[14] Jennifer Connelly (Creation”)
[15] Patricia Clarkson (Whatever Works”) NEW
[16] Emma Thompson (An Education”)
[17] Susan Sarandon (The Lovely Bones”)

Projected Nominees
[1] Racing Dreams” (TBD, TBD)
[2] Capitalism: A Love Story” (Overture, 9/23, trailer)
[3] The Cove” (Roadside Attractions, 7/31, trailer)
[4] Food, Inc.” (Magnolia, 6/12, trailer)
[5] Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (Abramorama, 4/10, trailer)
Major Threats
[6] Valentino: The Last Emperor” (Vitagraph, 3/18, trailer)
[7] It Might Get Loud” (Sony Pictures Classics, 8/14, trailer)
[8] Tyson” (Sony Pictures Classics, 4/24, trailer)
[9] Outrage” (Magnolia, 5/8, trailer)
On the Outside
[10] American Swing” (Magnolia, 3/27)
[11] The Age of Stupid” (TBD, 7/19, trailer)

Photo: George Clooney in Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air.” Courtesy: Paramount.